When Dragon Ball Xenoverse launched early last year it was hailed as one of the best Dragon Ball games in recent memory. While the new fighting system was decent, it was the original story and ability to create your own character from one of five races that was the big draw card for the franchise. Now roughly 20 months later we have Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, promising a new story mode, more playable characters, a new hub world and many improvements over the first game to deliver the ultimate Dragon Ball experience. Should players just wait for the holy third game in the series or does Xenoverse 2 bring us all we could wish for right now?
The story presented in Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is mostly a choppy, mistake riddled, repetitive, poorly paced mess. Characters appear and disappear out of nowhere with no to little sensible explanation, all the time travel shenanigans have no set rules for how they work and character abilities are all over the place (I’d normally give a pass to that last one as it is a video game, but it is laughably bad in Xenoverse 2). There are also technical problems such as poor animations and graphical glitches, subtitles consistently not matching what is being said and even a moment where two audio lines were placed in the wrong scenes. Some story elements being ripped verbatim from the first game and others that are very similar is another large problem, if you’ve played the first game there is a lot here that will seem familiar to you.
This is an example of a poor story scene that has a very slight, non important story spoiler. At some point you fight Janemba and Vegeta comes to assist you. At the start of the scene Trunks is laid out and exhausted, beaten by Janemba. The voice-overs then pop in with Trunks saying he wants to come and help out… even though he is already there… defeated. The scene ends with a base form Vegeta wiping out Janemba with a single blast, a scene that will have even the most basic Dragon Ball fan baffled. Why didn’t they at least make him Super Saiyan so it was at least slightly believable? Janemba and Broly are shoehorned into the story here, with little reason or development.
In the first game you’re level kind of stopped you from being able to progress in the story at will as villains would just get too strong for you to defeat. In XV2 the experience you get from the story is just enough to let you continue however other completely unrelated tasks stop you from doing so. These include a tutorial, a pointless quest to gather medals and the worst, forcing you to acquire a transformation which can take a couple of hours depending on your race and need to level up. This takes away from the player’s freedom to progress through the game as they like and is incredibly frustrating if you just want to see the end of the story play out. Story fights also won’t progress until all the dialogue is finished, meaning you could be sitting there for around 2 minutes with either side able to damage the other while the dialogue catches up to where you are in the fight. This is a common issue as you can often drain the enemy’s health bar much quicker than the dialogue progresses.
With all that being said, for a Dragon Ball fan there are a couple of scenes that are absolutely brilliant and brought a big smile to my face. I won’t spoil these as you should really see them for yourself, but during these moments all the problems take a back seat to some well thought out dialogue, good acting and great animation paired up with the perfect backing track. While these few scenes alone probably aren’t worth the pain of going through the story mode as a whole, they at least save it from being a complete disaster. The ability to import your Time Patroller from the first game is another great feature that is rarely seen in games. They even play a vital part in the story which surprised me and gave me an instant connection with the character.
Most parallel quests contain their own mini plot that either follow scenarios from the anime or have a ‘what if’ storyline. One example of these is Imperfect Cell being your partner while you fight Perfect Cell, who mocks Imperfect Cell for coming to the wrong timeline. The massive amount of flavor text that can change depending on the character you’re playing as and who you are fighting is impressive and well written, often delving into lesser known parts of the series lore which is a great payoff for knowledgeable fans. Training missions with mentors share these positive qualities as well.
Where the bulk of Xenoverse 2’s improvements come is the game play. First off you will notice the hub world got a major overhaul. Conton City adds a lot to Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 and is a hub world well worth exploring, especially in the multi lobby where you see other real life Time Patrollers and can interact with them with fun comments and emotes from the series. Where the first games hub world was seen as a poor excuse for a glorified menu, Conton City is fun to explore and rewards you for doing so with more side quests and other missions that then reward you with new outfits, attacks and other bonuses. The ability to fly (which you gain by progressing through the early part of the story) and vehicles, while trivial, makes traversing the world much more fun, as do the many robots around the town that allow you to teleport between them without any loading.
Unfortunately the trade off for no load times transportation is… ridiculously long load times. This wouldn’t be so bad if they happened once at the start of the game, but loading occurs every single time that you need to re-enter Conton City, which is a lot. These load times, by my own count, commonly last just under 40 seconds on a PlayStation 4 which is just unacceptable in this era of gaming. A confirmed patch to address the load times is coming but as it stands the load times are a huge drawback.
The fighting system was pretty decent in Xenoverse 1 and Xenoverse 2 expands on that, offering a smoother, faster, more varied combat experience. Attacks connect better in general and the new flash step technique really adds to the speed of battles as does the bump up to 60 frames per second. You can pull off some impressive looking combos simply by mashing a combination of the square and triangle attacks and supers and ultimates are just as easy to execute. Those looking for more depth in the combat will find it here, with the way combos link up and attack variety allowing players to experiment and come up with their own max damage combos using a combination of new and old techniques.
The new attack additions aren’t perfect however; all sharing one issue in common, the execution. Because all the buttons were already in use before the sequel, the way you pull off these new moves is slightly awkward. Burst dash for example forces you to press L1 and the square button at the same time (I’m using the often preferred C control option). This is almost impossible to pull off consistently due to the nature of the trigger which easily leads to frustration. Likewise, stamina break moves are pulled off by holding the control stick up and pressing square or triangle at the same time, another inconsistent combination. Lastly charged ki blast are simple to perform (simply hold circle) but are just awkward to use in combat, with long pauses before and after the move happens.
The games roster on its own is pretty impressive even though as a sequel the number of additions is pretty disappointing. Some characters like Hit and Goku Black from Dragon Ball Super see their playable debut and characters that probably should have been in the first game like Imperfect Cell and Android 16 make a welcome return alongside other fan favorites like Gogeta and Janemba. While there are definitely some questionable exclusions such as Dabura, many of the villain transformations and Android 13 and Bojack (I highly expect these two to show up in DLC), the 18 or so new characters we did get each bring something unique and are fun to play as. The roster select screen could use some cleaning up though, with the shameless clone ‘villainous’ versions of some characters now taking up their own slots as opposed to being an alternate outfit. Speaking of alternate outfits we did get shafted in that department, with only a small handful being added to existing characters.
The online experience has seen improvements. Conton City can hold up to 300 avatars at once, there are more mission types and modes for players online to compete in both competitively and cooperatively, and most importantly, online modes now have a lot less lag and are actually playable in contrast to the lag ridden online in Xenoverse 1. It’s still not perfect, but it’s a huge step up. Speaking of co-operative play, those who played the first game will take joy in knowing enemies no longer have access to super armour to stop them from flinching, instead being smarter and more difficult to fight to compensate.
In another big positive change, the impact of RNG (random number generator which is a pure chance way to determine if an event happens or not) has been severely reduced in Xenoverse 2, much to the praise of every gamer out there. Clothes and skills from quests now have a much higher drop rate and ultimate finishes will always trigger if you satisfy the conditions. You can also buy most outfits and skills from the shops now as well as acquire them by talking to NPC’s and completing side quests. Mentors now spawn in set locations, meaning it’s not up to RNG anymore if you find the one you’re after.
However, as seemingly to undo any good from that positive change, all your created characters are now treated as separate save files, only sharing skills and outfits between them. That means for every new character you wish to make you must unlock every mission, story mode progress and even unlock-able characters all over again. This is a baffling design decision, especially as the first game handled this so well with progress shared among all your created characters, allowing you to easily make new characters and play the game you have already completed as you see fit.
The customisation itself has unfortunately seen little improvements outside of the new race specific transformations, which are admittedly a great addition and very fun to play around with. Outside of those transformations though common requests for how to improve the create a character variety have been completely ignored and we still can’t customise even the simplest of preferences such as our aura, throw or even ki blast colour. Accessories are still limited to one, no matter where on the body they are placed and Super Saiyan hair still remains unfaithful to the series, simply turning gold and not spiking up. Popular accessories from the series such as Saiyan Tails, Potara Earrings and the Majin emblem were ignored as well and most outfits still can not have their colour changed although a few more with this ability have been added.
The number of added options for customising your body, such as hairstyles and body shape, is also underwhelming as are the number of new outfits and accessories. The first game was an awesome base for the create a character feature and while Xenoverse 2 brings everything from the last game forward, it fails to build upon that base in a substantial way in regards to content. A positive exception to this is in the move department where the development team somehow found many new attacks to add that weren’t present in the first games already impressive list. There are hardly any moves from the show that I can think of that aren’t in this game.
The graphics have seen a slight improvement from Xenoverse 1 but nothing major. It’s bright and colourful, most textures are high resolution and characters and stages all look really good in the cel shaded style outside of a few anomalies. Conton City successfully mashes famous locales from all over the series and has a great draw distance, allowing you to see the whole world from the sky. There is a small problem with assets taking a bit of time to load (shop vendors and NPC’s for examples) when you enter an area but this isn’t too common and fixes itself after a few seconds.
The user interface also got a bit of a touch up with some slick looking menus, new battle HUD and a most appreciated feature, time gates in quests now have a small label pointing to their direction so you don’t have to aimlessly search for them in larger maps. I really wish there was a way to turn off some of the HUD (most importantly the characters names that are consistently above their head) as it just seems unnecessary and ruins the immersion a little. Considering this would be a simple matter I’m surprised this feature is omitted here.
A few visuals flairs have been added to combat such as the screen shaking when you charge up ki. Arena damage now includes physical chunks of rock coming out of areas you hit with a blast. This looks really nice if you hit it with a multi ki blast attack and definitely adds to the immersion. Unfortunately you will be taken right back out of that immersion as any damage spots that appear on the ground or walls still disappear after 3 seconds. One day there will be a console powerful enough to handle real time arena destruction but for now this is a good step forward.
Another issue that ruins immersion is, for lack of a better term, the visual hit detection. In battles, attacks that look and feel like they should be hitting work fine so there is no problem on the game play side, but they still look awkward. This is really obvious when the camera tries to do something fancy, revealing how poor attacks (that are normally hidden by the back of your character) are connecting with your opponent. Things like a punch staggering an opponent when there fist is clearly a good length away from them or when two people have a melee clash. The way characters fly off in incorrect directions after being hit by an attack is another issue, or float awkwardly in the sky as they get knocked upwards but hit the top of the low sky boxes. The combat can actually look really epic at times but unfortunately these poor moments I describe above are just as common, if not more so. The image below is an extreme example but shows how ridiculous it can look at times.
Ending on a positive note, the CGI cutscenes in story mode, while there are only two of them, are the best looking cutscenes we have ever seen in a Dragon Ball Z game, period. The anime style cutscenes, again while rare, also seem to be of a better quality than in the first game with much smoother animation and on model art.
The sound quality all around has seen marginal improvements but is still below average. There are still a lot of problems with volume mixing (just like the first game I recommend turning sound effects down to 2 for a more even sound) and sometimes voices are way too soft or too loud to be heard clearly. This even extends to the game’s opening video where you think such a problem would easily be corrected before release. There seem to be more sound effects for all the different moves and the quality of the sounds is much better at least. Music still annoyingly fades in and out of quests based on your opponent’s position, a terrible design choice that carries over from the first game.
Most voice actors sound great and put in a good amount of gusto into their performances despite some awkward deliveries from time to time that may not be the actors fault but rather the direction given (e.g. Cooler rushing out to say his sentence while firing his Supernova attack). The English and Japanese dual audio is still present so you can listen to your preferred cast. While many old lines of dialogue seem to be reused, the new cast and new lines all sound good with many actors reprising their roles such as Cooler, Turles and Slug. This is the first time we hear Goku Black in English and I have to say I’m not a fan of the way Sean Schemmel portrays Goku Black here. It sounds more like a more grizzly Super Saiyan 4 Goku than the calm and menacing Goku Black we have grown to know from Japanese voice actress Masako Nozawa’s portrayal of the character.
The music however is mostly new and nearly all of it sounds fantastic. This is the first Dragon Ball game in a long time where the original soundtrack created for the game sounds fresh and exciting. We have a great mix of new techno, heavy rock and even beautifully epic orchestral music in addition to most of the tracks from the first game. There are only a couple tracks that really didn’t gel with me, with the rest all being perfect for accompanying battles or the story mode. The main issue with the music is just when it’s used, as there are times where it doesn’t fit with the visuals such as in the opening scene of story mode. If you find DJ Steve Aoki in Conton City or beat the game, you can listen to his two house remixes of Head Cha-La and We Gotta Power! which is a fun Easter Egg. Not everyone will find these songs enjoyable but I think most will like them, especially if they are fans of house music.
Xenoverse 2 sadly does the bare minimum to justify its existence as a sequel but as a standalone product still offers loads of content and fan service. Questionable design choices, poor loading times, audio issues and a mess of a story mode with very few highlights weigh down what is a great looking game with some great features. The license is used very well particularly in regards to character creation and dialogue, the expansive new hub world is worthy of exploration and the fighting engine is one of the best we’ve ever had in a Dragon Ball title. The game has been promised to be supported with free updates and patches for a year so we shall see how it stacks up after that time, but for now, despite it’s problems, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is still one of the best Dragon Ball games we’ve had in the past 20 years.